Sharing Healthcare Data

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The ability to exchange and understand information (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/interoperability) is known as interoperability and is paramount in the successful implementation of an EMR’s/EHR’s.   When referring to system data we typically divide interoperability up into semantic and syntactic interoperability.

                 Syntactic interoperability is the ability of one computer system to import the utterance created by another computer system and validate the utterance against a particular grammar and/or set of construction rules (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005878/).

                Semantic interoperability is the ability of two or more computer systems to exchange information and have the meaning of that information automatically interpreted by the receiving system accurately enough to produce useful results, as defined by the end users of both systems (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005878/).

                As an analogy, I don’t speak German; however, I am able listen to (import) the words of someone speaking German (syntactic interoperability) but I am unable to understand the meaning (semantic interoperability) of the words. Therefore I would have “syntactic interoperability” but not “semantic interoperability.”

                In the context of sharing healthcare data explain some of the challenges we may face (or are facing) in achieving both semantic and syntactic interoperability in the health care industry, and identify a proposed solution to help mitigate the identified challenge. Please cite any sources used.

 NOTE: This issue is not unique to the healthcare industry, but is a challenge facing systems interoperability in all domains so don’t limit your research to only healthcare websites. Use additional resources but then apply the concepts back to the healthcare specific environment for your reply!

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